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A Major Rarity: Asia’s First Stamp

A Major Rarity: Asia’s First Stamp

One of the all-time greats of philately

fellow collector

Things are heating up here in our office.

 And, I am not just talking about the temperature…

 Last week, Jersey recorded its highest ever June temperature at 33.1 degrees Celsius – the highest since records began in 1894.

 But, something even hotter than that happened in our office.

 You see, we managed to secure one of the all-time greatest stamps of philately.

 It is the first time I have ever handled this famous elusive rarity.

 A rarity which has international recognition.

 It is also renowned for being one of the hardest to find in fine condition.

 It comes from the most fiercely contested part of the stamp market – India.

 Out of all “the classics”, it is one of the rarest in the world of philately.

 It is also the first-ever round stamp to be seen anywhere in the world.

 Being the first adhesive postage stamp issued in Asia, it is the Asian equivalent to the Penny Black.

 Shortly after being released, it was withdrawn from use. Only several thousand were originally issued. Compare this to the 68 million penny blacks issued.

 Unlike the penny black, they have a very low survival rate.

 And those few that have survived are usually badly damaged.

 Despite that, even badly damaged examples have been known to sell for as much as £10,000.

 The example I have for you today is not badly damaged.

 Far from it…

 It is a fine quality used example.

 I am excited to present to you the world-famous “Scinde Dawk” of India…

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Technical description

 India 1852 ½a blue Scinde Dawk, SGS2.

 A fine used example with good margins all round, cancelled by indistinct handstamp. A little smudged though the seal is fine with only one or two very minor faults. Way above average quality and free from the usual blemishes and toning.

 Accompanied with a Royal Philatelic Society Certificate of Authenticity (1989).

 Stanley Gibbons catalogue value: £11,000.

 PRICE: £9,500


The stamp has special importance in the history of the British Empire.

 Its issue ensured the British had complete command over administrative matters in India.

 The story of the Scinde Dawk

 In 1852, India became the first country in Asia (and the 10th in the world) to issue its own postage stamps.

 At that time, Calcutta was the capital of British India. Unusually, this is not where the first Indian postage stamps were issued.

 Instead, India’s first stamps came from a remote region of historic importance called Sindh, a province in modern-day Pakistan.

 The stamps became known as the “Scinde Dawk”.

 The name derives from the words “Scinde”, the British spelling of the name of the province of Sindh, and “Dawk”, the anglicised spelling of the Hindustani word “Dak” or Post.

 The Dak was an old postal system which operated by means of runners, which the British called dawk-wallahs. The runners were paid based on the length of their journey and the weight of the letters. The letters were wrapped in palm leaves to protect them during the journey…

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 After the British conquest of Sindh in February 1843, it was considered this system was inefficient and inadequate to serve the military and commercial needs of the British East India Company.

 Sir Bartle Frere was appointed Commissioner in Sindh in 1850. Frere achieved a great deal in his role. He promoted the Sindhi language, built canals and roads and abolished slavery.

 The trading and administrative infrastructures of the new colonial system needed greater efficiency to serve this new phase of development in the region.

 The postal system was in desperate need of reform.

 Frere followed the British example set by Rowland Hill with the Penny Black in 1840. The system was improved by introducing a cheap and uniform rate of postage, independent of distance travelled.

 In 1851, the runners were replaced with an efficient system using horses and camels to carry mail following routes through Scinde province, generally along the valley of the Indus river.

 The Scinde Dawk stamps were first issued on 1 July 1852.

 The design has puzzled many…

 Major Rydot of the Indian Army concluded that the design was the same as the Merchant’s Mark of the British East India Company.

 It is composed of “+” and “P”, a very ancient Christian sign - being the first letter of the name of Christ in Greek. The mystic sign of “4” is found at the head, as it is on almost every merchant marine’s mark. There is no doubt that the design was regarded as a holy sign.

 The design was initially embossed on wafers of sealing wax impressed on the paper.

 This proved ineffective as they regularly cracked and disintegrated. They were soon replaced by a colourless design embossed on white paper. Unfortunately, this was hard to see in dim light.

 Finally, they got it right…

 The last of these stamps was a blue embossing on white paper. All had a value of ½ anna each. Today, they rank among the rare classics of philately.

 Why the Scinde Dawk stamps are so rare

 The Scinde Dawk stamps were only in use for a short time.

 There was a desire to standardise the stamps in Britain’s colonial territories of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. As a result, the British postal administration stopped issuing Scinde Dawk stamps on 30th September 1854.

 They were replaced with stamps from the East India Company with the customary image of Queen Victoria.

 Even though several thousands of the Scinde Dawk stamps were used between 1852 and 1854, very few survive now.

 Even fewer survive in fine condition…

 One of the hardest stamps to find in fine condition

 The most important features in determining the value of the Scinde Dawk are:

  1.  The size of the margins
  2. The quality and rarity of the handstamp
  3. Any tears, stains and toning

 In particular, because of the climate issues, most examples found today suffer from toning.

 To illustrate the point, just look below at some other examples recently sold or being offered for sale by other dealers…

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Now compare these typical examples to the fine example you can own today…

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As you can see, this is way above average quality. Especially pleasing is its freshness and absence of any of the usual toning found.

 It also has four good margins and is free of any of the usual blemishes, with the seal being completely undamaged.

 In short, it is a special find in such fine quality.

 It also benefits from a certificate of authenticity issued by the Royal Philatelic Society.

 As you can see below, the certificate is clean and refers to no condition issues, thus cementing its value…

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Price Comparisons

 Prices can vary considerably at auction, principally dependent on condition.

 What is remarkable though is that even poorer quality examples such as those featured above can realise as much as £10,000 at auction.

 The current Stanley Gibbons catalogue value for a fine used example is £11,000.

 You can secure this example today for £9,500 (14% discount).


Historic price performance

 In theory, the Scinde Dawk stamp I offer you today should represent a sound pick for investment in rare stamps. It has all the qualities needed to perform…

 Long term value: the most iconic rarities will always be the most sought-after by collectors.

 Quality: buying fine quality examples is like picking the best quality companies in the stock market.

 Momentum: the Indian stamp market has been the strongest area of the market for stamps for the past twenty years, providing liquidity, and prices continually rising at auction.

 So, let’s see how this theory stacks up by looking at the history of SG catalogue values in five-year intervals over the past twenty years…

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The 20-year growth in value of 300% (15% pa simple annual growth) presents as a solid investment over the past twenty years.

 Unlike the stock market, there were no periods of worry where prices plummeted.

 Prices only moved in one direction and that was upwards.

 If anything, I would expect to have seen higher growth.

 Based on recent auction realisations, it looks to me that Stanley Gibbons catalogue values are lagging market values.

 The next edition of the British Commonwealth & Empire catalogue is scheduled for release in September. It will be interesting to see what the new price will be…

 Your chance to own one of the rarest jewels of India

 To summarise:

  • The first adhesive postage stamp of Asia
  • The first ever round stamp issued
  • Historically important as its issue effectively ensured the British had complete command over administrative matters in the province
  • One of the rarest stamps in the world and extremely rare to find in fine condition
  • Yet, we have managed to secure an example in finer quality than the majority of surviving examples
  • Offered to you today at a 14% discount to SG catalogue value of £11,000 (yours for just £9,500)
  • It has proven its investment merit, showing growth in value of 300% over the past twenty years
  • Current market prices being realised at auction indicate potential future growth in value


Call me immediately on +44(0)1534 639998.

 Or email me today at

 It is not just words when I say rarities such as this are in huge demand right now.

 You will need to act quickly to secure it as I expect it to sell very quickly.

 Kind regards

 Mike Hall

 PS. It is important to remember your Scinde Dawk is accompanied with a certificate of authenticity issued by the Royal Philatelic Society. This is important for this stamp as there are a lot of forgeries.

 PPS. Most forgeries are, however, easy to spot as they are not embossed on the paper.

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